AAUW hosts prominent women

Three politically prominent women from Bowling Green spoke at a breakfast presentation yesterday in the Union. The presentation and discussion “Women in Politics” was hosted by the Bowling Green branch of the American Association University Women. Ellen Dalton, Becky Bhaer and Joyce Kepke spoke about their experiences in office and encouraged other women to take an active role in politics.

Dalton is a two-term member of the Bowling Green Board of Education. She is currently serving her second term, which will end on Dec. 31. Bhaer is the Wood County Clerk of Courts. She has served since she was appointed in 1987 and has been reelected for four terms. She is the longest serving clerk in the history of Wood County and was the president of the Ohio Clerk of Courts Association. Kepke is on the city council and is the second woman to hold the office.

Bhaer talked about the role that she has taken to make a difference in state legislation. On several occasions she has talked at the state house to influence the vote on various legislation. She advocates for the voters in the area.

She explained that anyone can and should go to the state house and testify in the legislation that will effect individuals. Many legislators only hear from special interest groups. She said that an individual’s opinion will make a bigger statement then lobbyist. Each speaker described some of the challenges that they have faced as women serving in public office. They agreed that before they were elected to office they had to prove that they were worthy of the position.

“In all of the campaigning no one was negative except one man who though women did not belong in politics,” said Kepke. Bhaer also faced problems with stereotyping. “Politicians are supposed to be tall, skinny and male,” she said. “I love proving the negative people wrong.”

Once in office these women have continued to face problems that have acted as motivation for them to put forth even more effort. “It’s hard to walk into a situation where you are the only women,” said Kepke, “I had to establish my credibility. It pushes you to do your homework.”

They agreed that in order to deal with the stresses of campaigning and holding an office, it is important to have the support of their family. Kepke said that when she decided to run for city council her family became less dependent on her and found that they could manage on their own at times. She said her kids thought it was fun to have an active mom.

Dalton agreed and said that she received incredible support from her family. The day that she won the election her 14-year-old daughter bought her flowers and a teddy bear. Bhaer said that she did not believe that it would not have been possible for her to run for office without the blessing of her husband and family.

Despite the stress and demands of being in office, these women said they were able to handle it with the support of their family. “I encourage women to run for office,” said Bhaer. “You have to be able to stand the heat, but we do need good women in politics.”

The AAUW members were receptive to the women’s discussion. The AAUW is composed of student from the University and members of the Bowling Green community. By opening this presentation to everyone they hoped to recruit new members. “I am glad that I came to the discussion and that I am a new member,” said AAUW member, Amanda Dlugiewicz.